Northwest Florida Heritage and History

Northwest Florida heritage and history are all around you as you travel through miles of mainly rural country, pine woods, and some of the most beautiful sand beaches in the world.  This region includes 12 counties.  Culturally, it is more like Alabama than it is like the rest of Florida.

Northwest Florida History

Northwest Florida heritage and history is evident in the many small towns that played a key part in early Florida history.  You will see many monuments and memorials to the Old South in the form of Confederate soldier statues in town squares and in front of courthouses.

"Becalmed In The Mullet Latitudes" is a wonderful book by the late Al Burt published in 1983.  Al was a long time Miami Herald columnist who had a deep love for Florida and a melancholy for the "old Florida" that was disappearing.  He celebrated the Northwest Florida heritage along with other parts of rural Florida.

He identified and chronicled the disappearing old places that he
called the Mullet Latitudes.  His name for Northwest Florida and the Panhandle was "Florabama".  If Al were still alive, I think he'd stick with the name even though there has been a fair amount of Yankee migration into the area since he wrote his book.

Pensacola was settled by the Spanish in 1559.  It was the first European settlement in the United States.  It was a rival to St. Augustine on the Atlantic settled in 1565 on the other side of the state.

Pensacola was the first capital of Florida.  When Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, the capital was moved shortly after to Tallahassee because it was about halfway between Pensacola and St. Augustine.

After the Spanish left and Florida became a U.S. territory, settlers from Alabama and Georgia began homesteading small farms.  In in the years before the Civil War, northern Florida was the most populated region of Florida.  These early settlers had a lot to do with establishing Northwest Florida heritage as part of the Old South.

This part of Florida remained largely rural and remote until after World War Two.  Many houses and farms did not have electricity until after the war.  The communities survived on farming and fishing.  Turpentine, naval stores and other timber based chemicals were important businesses in the years immediately before and after World War Two.  The pine woods also attracted lumber and paper mills.

The Congressman Bob Sikes Era Begins

The Florida panhandle had a U.S. Congressman named Bob Sikes from Crestview.  He was an expert at bringing home the bacon.  That's a good old American phrase that means he was good at getting Federal money for his Congressional District.

He had a lot to do with bringing many of the military installations to Florabama. He was in Congress from 1941 to 1979, with some time off during World War Two when he joined the military.  He helped preserve and continue the military elements of Northwest Florida heritage.

Eglin Air Force Base was built just before World War Two near Fort Walton Beach.  It pulled the remote backwoods panhandle into the modern world.  
Eglin is the largest military installation in the United States.  The base sprawls across three counties, and is about the same size as Rhode Island.  I took my Navy pilot survival training course in the swamps and jungles of Eglin known as the boondocks.

The base is named for Fritz Eglin, an early Army aviator who died in a plane crash.  I did not know until years later that my father is named Fritz in honor of the downed pilot.  Eglin was my grandfather's classmate at Wabash College in Indiana.  Read more about Fritz Eglin here.

Panama City is the unofficial capital of Florabama, with Pensacola running a close second.  The Florabama beaches are known by Floridians as the "redneck riviera".  They have traditionally attracted Alabama and Georgia tourists.

Star high school football players in Florabama do not typically go to the University of Florida or Florida State University. They are more likely to sign up with the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Auburn Tigers.

The Florida panhandle has fewer "Go Gator" bumper stickers than anywhere else in the State.

A notable exception is Emmitt Smith, Hall of Fame running back for the NFL Dallas Cowboys.  Mr. Smith graduated from Escambia High School in Pensacola and went on to gridiron glory at the University of Florida.  You non-football fans may remember him from "Dancing With The Stars".

Northwest Florida Heritage Sites

Here are 104 Northwest Florida heritage sites listed by county. County seats are also shown.  Here's a neat trick for you:  highlight any of the sites below, then right click and it will take you to the site's webpage on the internet.

BAY: Panama City

  1. Junior Museum of Bay County
  2. Museum of Man in the Sea
  3. Panama City Main Street
  4. SS Tarpon Underwater Archaeological Preserve
  5. St. Andrews State Park

CALHOUN: Blountstown

  1. Old Calhoun County Courthouse
  2. Panhandle Pioneer Settlement

ESCAMBIA: Pensacola

  1. Alger--Sullivan Lumber Company Residential Historic District
  2. Barkley House
  3. Barrancas National Cemetery
  4. Big Lagoon State Park
  5. British Fort of Pensacola
  6. Charles William Jones House
  7. Crystal Ice Co. Building
  8. Dorr House
  9. Escambia County Courthouse
  10. Fort Barrancas Historical District
  11. Fort George Site
  12. Fort McRee
  13. Fort Pickens
  14. Fort San Carlos de Barrancas
  15. Greater Mount Lily Baptist Church
  16. Gulf Islands National Seashore
  17. Historic Pensacola Village
  18. Julee Cottage Museum
  19. L & N Marine Terminal Building
  20. L & N Passenger Terminal
  21. Lavalle House
  22. National Museum of Naval Aviation
  23. North Hill Preservation District
  24. Old Christ Church
  25. Pensacola Historic District
  26. Pensacola Historical Museum
  27. Pensacola Hospital
  28. Pensacola Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters
  29. Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District
  30. Pensacola Resource Learning Center and Library
  31. Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Scenic Highway
  32. Perdido Key Historic District
  33. Perdido Key State Park
  34. Plaza Ferdinand VII
  35. Saenger Theatre
  36. St. Joseph's Church Buildings
  37. St. Michael's Creole Benevolent Association Meeting Hall
  38. The Empire Building
  39. Thiesen Building
  40. USS Massachusetts

FRANKLIN: Apalachicola

  1. Apalachicola Historic District
  2. Bald Point State Park
  3. Cape St. George Lighthouse
  4. Crooked River Lighthouse
  5. Fort Gadsden Historic Memorial
  6. John Gorrie Museum State Park
  7. Ormon House
  8. Raney House Museum
  9. St. George Island State Park
  10. Trinity Episcopal Church

GULF: Port St. Joe

  1. Civic Center
  2. Constitution Convention Museum
  3. Port St. Joe Garden Club
  4. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

HOLMES: Bonifay

  1. Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

JACKSON: Marianna

  1. Florida Caverns State Park
  2. Marianna Historic District
  3. Marianna Main Street
  4. Pender's Store
  5. Three Rivers State Park
LIBERTY: Bristol
  1. Torreya State Park
OKALOOSA: Crestview
  1. Air Force Armament Museum
  2. Blackwater Heritage Trail State Park
  3. Blackwater River State Park
  4. Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum
  5. Carver Hill Museum
  6. Destin Fishing Museum
  7. Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
  8. Ft. Walton Beach Main Street
  9. Garnier Post Office Museum
  10. Gulfview Hotel Historic District
  11. Henderson Beach State Park
  12. Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida
  13. Indian Temple Mound Museum
  14. Mainstreet Crestview Association
SANTA ROSA: Milton
  1. Bagdad Village Historic District
  2. First American Road in Florida
  3. Florida State Road No. 1
  4. Main Street Milton
  5. Milton Historic District
  6. Mt. Pilgrim African Baptist Church
  7. Naval Live Oaks Reservation
  8. Navarre Beach State Park
  9. St. Marys Episcopal Church and Rectory
  10. West Florida Railroad Museum
WALTON: DeFuniak Springs
  1. Camp Helen State Park
  2. Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood
  3. Deer Lake State Park
  4. DeFuniak Springs Historic District
  5. Eden Gardens State Park
  6. Governor Stone-Eden State Park
  7. Grayton Beach State Park
  8. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
WASHINGTON: Chipley
  1. Falling Waters State Park
  2. Moss Hill Church
  3. South Third Street Historic District
  4. Woman's Club of Chipley

Much of the information in our website has been published in a series of Amazon Kindle books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions.

Florida Backroads Travel, a separate Kindle book, covers all of the regions of the state in one volume.

All books can be read on a computer, tablet, Kindle and most smart phones.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at Amazon.com.

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